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Unfinished Hardwood Flooring

Updated on January 10, 2010

Wood flooring is an exceptionally beautiful aspect of any home. The natural beauty is welcomed among people of many tastes and styles. The quality of real food flooring is reflected in the higher price that is generally seen over other flooring types such as tile. Installation and care also tends to be more intensive with an importance placed on the characteristics of natural wood. While a treasure trove of pre finished wood products are available, some home owners are looking for a custom stain or finish for their home. This is made possible through the use of unfinished hardwood flooring. Consumers get to pick their own wood type such as cherry, maple, or oak. The pieces come unfinished, that is without any staining or sealer. The stain and finish is hand selected to perfectly match your tastes. This gives home owners a large amount of flexibility in the final look and feel of the flooring.

Hardwood Floor Design
Hardwood Floor Design


Wood has natural characteristics which must be taken into account during installation. Factors like humidity can damage the wood over time. Naturally, wood flooring of the unfinished variety has a longer turnaround time for installation. After the panels have been laid, the floor must go through a series of steps to reach the final product. We will go over the general processes in this section.

Site Conditions

Before having a professional look over your home and give a project estimate, there are some things you can do to determine if your home is an acceptable environment for unfinished hardwood floors. Wood floors should be installed after any other construction work is complete. If there are any projects going on such as concrete drywall installation, this should be done beforehand. Hardwood should only be installed on concrete that is above or at ground level. That is, if you have a floor surface that resides more than three inches below ground level, it is unsuitable for installation.

Wood’s natural enemy is moisture, which is why it must be kept dry at all times. When your wood pallets arrive, be sure to provide adequate air circulation, using a fan if the conditions are particularly humid. Take care to avoid stacking the wood too high which can trap moisture in between the layers and can even distort the wood under too much weight.

Make A Wood Undercut On The Baseboards
Make A Wood Undercut On The Baseboards


Allow for a ¾ inch expansion region between the edges of the wood and the walls. The wood will expand at varying levels depending on the humidity. Undercut the baseboards at a minimum height of 1/16 inch to allow proper clearance of the wood panels. It is common practice to lay the panels parallel to the length of the room for best appearance. This is of course up to you, as other orientations can be done such as vertical and horizontal. Wood edges are particularly vulnerable to damage and care must be taken to avoid chipping and scratching. Ask your installer to use edge protectors for edges where wood merges with carpet or tile. These protectors are usually made of metal and cover the exposed wood lip to prevent shoes from kicking into the wood.

Glue And Fasteners

Planks of wood that are larger than 4 inches should be bound to the floor using a combination of adhesive and fasteners. This keeps the plank from shifting over time. Keep in mind that there will be a slight separation between wood planks which can allow for shifting if improperly bound. Excess glue can be removed using a special wood adhesive remover. This will not damage the floors.


This guide assumes you are having a professional company install your flooring. To make the process go smoothly and quickly, it is recommended that you order needed supplies with your wood pallets. Doing this will ensure that all equipment is on site and ready to go. It can be disappointing when you need to put the project on hold while you wait for supplies to come in. A 1000 square foot plot will take about four days to install if conditions are acceptable. It is always a good idea to factor in unexpected costs and delays into your plans. Here is a general timeline of what will happen when your installers arrive.

Day One:  The layout of the flooring will be established and installation will begin. Care will be taken to glue and fasten the planks in a parallel fashion. A couple professionals should be able to finish laying the planks on the first day.

Day Two:  Floors will be sanded with electric sanders, and then buffered to achieve smooth perfection. Hardwood floor sanding is done to smooth rough edges and to provide a smooth transition between layers. The first coat of polyurethane will be applied and let to set. The floor will still be unsuitable for walking on at this point.

Day Three:  The floor will be buffered once more and a second coat of polyurethane substance will be applied. Buffering is done to remove inconsistencies in the flooring from uneven application of poly.

Day Four:  A final buffing is done followed by another coat of polyurethane.


After watching your dream become reality from the ground up, it is time to enjoy and show off your masterpiece. Your installation team will likely provide you with a wood care starter kit. This will get you on the right track for cleaning hardwood floors, which is extremely important. With the proper care, your unfinished hardwood floor will last long enough for generations to enjoy.


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      TipTop Flooring Inc. 

      8 years ago

      Thank you for the article. Agree, the installation of the unfinished floor is very hard and long precess, but the result worth it, there is really unique style of your floor and joy of having it.


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